Sunday, July 21st is “No Pet Store Puppies Day,” the third year of the ASPCA’s campaign to fight puppy mills. But it doesn’t end there.
Molly and her dog Joey know that puppy mills are bad and why to avoid pet stores that sell puppies. That beats 78 percent of consumers who remain unaware that most pet stores puppies come from puppy mills. (This according to a national study conducted by Lake Research Partners and commissioned by The ASPCA.)
Molly may be a child, yet she has the power to educate millions, if we help her. Besides, she and her dog are too adorable. See for yourself.
In honor of ending the puppy mill industry, please share Molly’s message. Do it for the dogs.
Share the “Meet Molly” video across their social networks, thus educating people that shopping in pet stores that sell puppies supports puppy mill cruelty.
Take the Pledge not to shop for anything –including pet food, toys, etc – at pet stores stores or on websites that sell puppies.
Check out the newly launched consumer tool that allows consumers to see photos taken inside U.S. Department of Agriculture licensed commercial dog breeding facilities that sell puppies to pet stores around the country.
Join the ASPCA Puppy Mills Awareness Twitter chat with the hashtag #ASPCAchat taking place on Tuesday, July 23rd from 1pm-2pm EST!
Let’s up the stakes! Leave a comment below about why you agree with Molly and you’ll earn a chance to win a special No Pet Store Puppies gift pack!
In April, my dog rescue was invited to work in support of another to save mill dogs. Contrary to my title above, there are never too many mill dog rescues. I want to save them all. But there are far too many reasons to have to rescue, and that’s what needs to stop. You have the power to make the difference just by making a simple, educated choice – even if you aren’t in the market for a dog.
How the dogs come…
An unending supply of beautiful little souls arrive through a contact who begged puppy mills to give up their unwanted dogs. These dogs would otherwise be shot for lack of productivity or for missing traits of the breeds that they are supposed to represent.
Our contact gets the call, retrieves dog-filled crates at the end of a mill’s driveway, surveys the dogs for immediate health concerns, and sends them on a 12 hour transport to freedom.
When 2 means 30…
Last Thursday’s call said two dogs were ready for pickup. Somehow 2 meant 30. Mills are dumping dogs now that a new law went into effect. Puppies were pulled from 3 young moms by millers that morning and the mothers, leaking milk, were shoved into small crates two at a time.
Its estimated that our mill sources house anywhere from 500 to 800 breeder dogs living a life of pure hell. Jemma, a white rescued Chihuahua, was just one of these dogs. And yet she is such a happy, shining soul despite her need for reconstructive surgery for poor genetics (We know her one son, now adopted, was born the same way and nearly thrown away, yet the mills kept breeding Jemma and selling her “purebred” pups.). Can you please chip in for Jemma’s care?
When the dogs arrive…
Never have you seen a more happy dog when the world opens before them beyond a crowded chicken wire cage. These dogs light up regardless of oozing paws damaged from wire cage floors, eyes so sticky the dog can’t see through the flies, internal parasites so plentiful that up to 3 dewormings are required, teeth fully rotted from poor nutrition and lack of water, or kidneys so weak they only have 35% function. Some immediately seek human touch and comfort. Others take a bit longer to understand, but they do learn with patience and love.
What boils my blood…
We protect our contact’s identity to preserve a mill’s hard-earned trust, trust that took years to build and which remains precarious regardless. But I abhor the fact that we must shield the identity of the mills in order to save the dogs. None of us in New York know where exactly the dogs come from beyond which state. The paperwork is color coded so we are kept blind to the details. We must often remind ourselves that, at the end of the day, our contact and the Companion Animal Placement Program has saved truckloads of dogs this way and that we at Dog House Adoptions have joined a valiant and vigilant fight.
Know the facts…
Pet stores will tell you that their puppies come from “USDA licensed breeders.” USDA licensure is a good indicator that the breeders are, in fact, puppy mills. Licensing by the USDA as a commercial breeder is strictly reserved for those selling puppies to pet stores or brokers. Even the meager guidelines they tend not to enforce are horrific.
According to the ASPCA:
Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, which is enforced by the USDA, dogs in commercial breeding facilities can legally be kept in cages only six inches longer than the dog in each direction, stacked on top of one another, for their entire lives. It’s completely legal to house dogs in cages with wire flooring and to breed female dogs at every opportunity.
One way mills skirt the law is to sell their dogs strictly online. This type of sale falls into a loophole that does not require USDA licensing or inspection. If you think paying good money for papers ensures a healthy breeding stock, you are sorely mistaken.
Do your dollars support the mill dog industry?
You may be supporting a life of cruelty for millions of dogs confined to pumping out puppies like machines. Refuse to do either of the following and you can change that fact:
Do not purchase a puppy at a pet store or online
Buy your pet supplies from stores (online or brick and mortar) that do not sell puppies
Find ethical pet stores by zip code thanks to the ASPCA. Visit the database to find one near you or add one that you know of! Just remember, don’t shop ’til they stop. Your dollar makes the difference.
Meet the one that grabbed my heart…
This little lady from Friday’s transport made me fall apart, a little momma who ran joyfully like the others but instantly froze and closed her eyes at my touch. Being spayed today, she’ll never have to deliver or lose another puppy. (Her last puppy was taken away.)
We’re going to heal her eyes and I will do everything in my power to help her see that touch is every bit as good as she thinks it might be. Last night, in my lap, she flattened to me as if to disappear … yet she let me feed her this way. I set her down and she came right back. It’s a start.
I’ve named her Leila, honoring her with more than a number, if she even had that. My husband and I are personally sponsoring her care. This one has my whole heart wrapped around her. If she weren’t at the vet, I’d be with her right now. Since I’m not, I’m using my time to ask for your help.
Please consider adoption.
Every single day, sweet dogs like Leila need you and they will quickly blossom in your care. Nothing feels better than knowing that you gave a dog a chance.
Blog the Change for Animals the 15th of every January, April, July and October, an event sponsored by Be the Change for Animals.
Stray Dogs’ new video, “PICK ME!,” if nominated for the DogTime Petties Awards, would truly help orphaned dogs in one local community – and around the world.
At the very least, We can spread the adoption message to a LOT of people, and that alone is a huge win. Reaching the voting round spreads the word through DogTime.com, a website that touts 40 million unique visitors each month.
You can nominate once daily through Friday, June 28th, 2013 at Midnight PST.
One lucky rescue gets a whopping $10,000 from DogTime during their 2013 Petties Awards!! Category winners receive a personalized Petties trophy and a $1,000 donation to the shelter or rescue of their choice.
Following Comedian Steve Hofstetter’s dog journey, I grow more and more fond of the funny man. Yes, I’m a fan of his comedy, but I’m an even greater fan of his compassion and commitment to animals.
Steve went from respecting his wife Sara’s animal welfare interests at a distance to adopting a rescue dog now named Bea Arthur and using his celebrity status to promote rescue. Offering a stray dog named Carlin the only comfort of his last few days on Earth last month, now Steve is turning animal activist to change the outcome of a topic so large that it hasn’t been properly tackled to date – ending puppy mills.
Steve’s latest message gives me hope. I share it with gratitude for the work he and Sara are doing to make a very real difference. We can rescue mill dogs all we want, but the problem will always be bigger than the resources available to cope – unless we eradicate the problem’s source.
My wife Sara reached out to you with our story about Carlin, the abandoned dog we found in a gas station parking lot that had to be put down. The support and kind wishes we received were overwhelming, as close to 250,000 people read and shared Carlin’s story.
I wanted to reach out with a thank you, and some good news. The heartbreak inspired me to start a legislative campaign to end all puppy mills once and for all. With my contacts in the media and government, passing this is a realistic possibility. And Carlin’s story convinced our landlords to let us have a second dog – so we might not have saved his life, but his life saved another.
If you’d be willing to share this story [featured below], it’s a lot more uplifting than the last one, and will hopefully inspire more people to adopt.
And if you’d like to join our campaign to end puppy mills, please visit EndTheMills.com. Even one petition signature helps a great deal, as we’ll be pursuing legislation on a federal, state, city, and local basis.
Thank you so much, Steve Hofstetter
The Happy Ending
It’s been 18 days since my wife, Sara, and I found a stray dog in a gas station. It’s been 18 days since we cleaned him off, fed him, and named him Carlin. It’s been 18 days since we learned Carlin was in the advanced stages of distemper and we had to put him down. It’s been 18 days since I cried for the first time in years.
I knew I’d become a dog person already. What I didn’t know was the extent. For two years, we had a little Puerto Rican roommate named Bea Arthur that showed me just how much I could love a dog. But in just a few hours, Carlin taught me that loving one was not enough.
I will never forget the shock of the vet telling me that Carlin had distemper. We knew something was very wrong. But the optimist in me thought everything would work out. The optimist in me likes to get my hopes up just enough to set up an impending heartbreak. Turns out the optimist in me is also a sadist.
There was a brief moment when I was thrilled that the vet agreed to take Carlin in, before I realized that he was taking him in just to end things mercifully. That emotional cliff dive was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I went from the relief of knowing Carlin would be cared for to the anguish that this was somehow our fault. We were happy to give Carlin his literal moment in the sun. But, as illogical as the thought was, I couldn’t escape the fear that we were partially responsible.
I wrote a column about Carlin – both as catharsis for me and a tribute to him. I must have re-read it a dozen times, hoping that somehow the results would be different. But you can’t change the ending. Ilsa gets on the plane, Soylent Green is made of people, and the boat always sinks. Sara and I weren’t whole for days.
The oddest part was when we’d interact with other people. When you’re that emotionally distraught, it’s difficult to understand that everyone around you isn’t just as sad. Even a world champion in empathy can’t truly relate to someone else’s loss. We couldn’t connect to anyone.
Well, we connected to a few people. We live in the top floor of a house, owned by a wonderfully sweet couple named Larry and Lee who have an adorable mutt named Hannah. Months ago, we’d asked if they would allow us to have a second dog; we assumed that due to our shared love of everything pup that they’d relax their previous one dog policy. We got a resounding no.
After we lost Carlin, a second dog wasn’t even on our minds. We knew the rules – and having just lost our brief friend, we were gun shy. But Lee could tell something was wrong. Having trouble explaining what had happened, I pointed her towards the column. A few hours later, I received an email from them that didn’t just allow us to get a second dog – the email pleaded for it. This time, we didn’t ask for them to let us get a second dog – the universe did.
It turned out that Larry and Lee had just rescued another pup of their own, and they could see just how good of a home we would be for one more. That email was the first time I’d truly smiled since we lost Carlin, and I had done a show the night before. Outwardly, I’d smiled plenty. But that was the first time I meant it.
I was excited that Carlin’s death would save the life of another dog. And the sheer volume of support we received regarding Carlin was staggering. Close to 250,000 people read the column, and it was shared all over Facebook, reprinted in blogs, and even appeared in some newspapers. Carlin’s life hadn’t just touched us – it touched everyone we told.
I was inspired. I spent a few days building EndTheMills.com, a website based around the idea that with simple legislation we could end puppy mills forever. I didn’t want Carlin to just save one dog. I wanted him to save them all. It was an immediate success – through signatures, publicity, and donations, there is a realistic possibility that my little gremlin could be the catalyst to end the systematic overbreeding and abuse inherent in the mill system. The ending of Carlin’s part of the story couldn’t change – but the movie wasn’t over yet.
Sara went home for a week to visit family, and then I had a few gigs. So this weekend was our first chance to adopt a little brother for Bea. I’d gone through the seven stages of grief – shock, guilt, anger, depression, the turn around, reconstruction, and hope. As much as those few hours with Carlin will always be with me, I knew that the real way to end the movie was to find the first dog who’s life Carlin would save.
We went to No Kill Los Angeles, an adoption event sponsored by Best Friends Animal Society where dozens of rescues and shelters bring over a thousand animals to be adopted. We didn’t know if we’d meet “the one” there. But it was a great chance to try.
I never imagined that I would be looking for a second dog – let alone a Chihuahua mix – but I wanted to find a dog that reminded me of Carlin. The first dog we met was Jack – a sweet little guy from Best Friends themselves. But it would be ridiculous to fall in love with the first dog we met. And one named Jack? That’s the grandfather I wanted to name a child after. Fate couldn’t be that obvious, could it?
After meeting several more with too much energy for a family of couch potatoes, we found a second candidate. Charlie had been fostered by a rescue for close to a year, and was incredibly chill. He was great with people, great with other dogs, and grateful that we wanted to meet him. But our heart, somehow wasn’t in it. Maybe it’s because Jack looked more like Carlin. Or maybe because Jack was smaller and needed more help, or maybe because we just met Jack first. Whatever the reason, Charlie reminded me of the platonic friend you know would be a good choice to date, but there’s just not enough spark to go through with it. Sorry Charlie – we’re just going to be friends.
So where is the happy ending? I’m writing this, sitting on my couch, while Bea Arthur and Mitch Hedberg are asleep next to me. We changed Jack’s name to Mitch – I may not ever have a son, but if I do, I’m keeping the name Jack available. Besides – Mitch is a fitting tribute to Carlin, another one of comedy’s greats. And Mitch Hedberg was a one-liner guy. Seems right for a dog small enough for me to palm.
Bea is a wonderful big sister. Despite how selective she can be with other dogs, I feel like somehow, she knows. She understands that Mitch is family.
It’s been 18 days since everything changed. It’s been 18 days since I started grieving. And it’s been 18 days since we got to spend one afternoon with Carlin. But that afternoon will allow us to spend a lifetime with Mitch. And hopefully, it will inspire other people to help us end the mills permanently, preventing street dogs like Bea, Mitch, and Carlin from ever needing a home again.
The movie isn’t over yet. That happy ending is up to you.
It is both a heart warming and heart breaking story. I am very proud of what he did, as well as what he wrote. I wanted to share it with you in hopes that you would share it with your readers, and it would inspire a few more people to take action and help.
When interviewing Hofstetter for Be the Change for Animals, I was moved by his unlikely shift toward becoming a rescue advocate and using his celebrity for good after he and Sara adopted a little dog named Bea Arthur. The story he shared yesterday has rocked me to the core. And so I am compelled to share his words with you here. I do so not just at Sarah’s request, but because this story reaches into the heart of what rescue is about: excitement, frustration, anguish, joy, sadness, relief and much, much more. When you reach the end, you’ll understand.
Today was the day that everything changed.
Just before noon, my wife Sara and I stopped in Modesto for lunch. I was driving us from San Francisco to Visalia, and couldn’t find a viable healthy restaurant on the way. Traveling with our dog, Bea Arthur, limited our choices to just those with outdoor seating. And Bea spending most of the trip whining increased the urgency of getting out of the car.
We finally settled on what we thought was a cute café. Once seated, we discovered the place had the menu of a Denny’s with three times the price, and the one open table was next to three women who made the cast of Sex And The City look well adjusted.
The women were actively complaining that their boyfriends were paying too much attention to them. Keep complaining, ladies. That problem will work itself out.
On top of that, it was cold out. We ate fast and got back in the car. Many miles and a two stomach aches later, Sara finished a delayed conference call and I pulled over so Sara could finally drive. And that’s when we saw him.
There was a mutt that couldn’t have been more than ten pounds, running around a gas station. I threw the car in park and Sara started chasing the dog. He was extremely fast – Sara couldn’t come within ten feet of him. I grabbed Bea and started chasing as well. We watch a lot of Animal Planet and this was not as easy as they make it look. I’d imagine I’d also be shaking my fist at HGTV if we ever renovated a house.
Someone from the gas station yelled to us that Animal Control had been trying to catch the dog for weeks. “Not trying hard enough,” I thought. I was not going to let this ten pounds of cute outwit me. I noticed the dog was going in circles around the gas station so I had Sara chase it into the station’s retired car wash tunnel as I ran to the other side.
When I was in college, I played tackle football with no padding every January. In a game of ultimate frisbee, I ran into someone so hard it took my face three weeks to heal. I once caught a Spring Training home run ball with a slide on concrete. But I have never been so proud of a tackle as I was today. Partially because it’s been ten years since I’ve exercised with any sort of regularity.
With Bea’s leash in my left hand, I got my right hand on the mutt’s back enough to stop it from running. The poor dog was terrified – it peed so much I felt like I had squeezed a water bottle. Sara took Bea from me and I tried to feed the mutt a few treats. It was too scared to eat. In fairness, if something 18 times my size scared me so much I peed on myself, my next thought wouldn’t be “oooh, snacks!”
Having found the dog in a car wash, I decided to call him “Suds MacKenzie.” Sara grabbed a blanket from the car and we did what we could to clean Suds off and wrap him up. After ten minutes of heavy petting, Suds finally started eating. Again, I was reminded of college.
We drove to a nearby Petco and bought $50 worth of supplies. We figured we’d be back home in LA in two days – we could stop by a vet in Fresno to have Suds checked out, and then find a no-kill shelter in LA or a neighbor in need of an adorable friend. We bought a collar so we could walk him, some wipes to finish cleaning him off, a bunch of Nature’s Miracle to make sure our hotel would be fine, and some wet food since Suds’ teeth were mostly gone.
Suds wouldn’t walk in the parking lot, probably having never been on a leash before, so I carried him back to the car and tried to find something more conducive to calming a dog than a strip mall. According to Google, the nearest dog park was back in San Francisco. But I saw a patch of green on the map and headed for it.
Then something amazing happened – the patch of green was a dog park, and it was the nicest dog park I’ve ever seen. It was large, covered in grass, and empty. Meanwhile, the 60-degree day had magically warmed up to 68. This was order in the universe.
The cosmic nature of what was happening hit me. Bea’s whining, the terrible lunch, Sara’s delayed conference call – it all led up to us finding this amazingly sweet animal. And I was wrong – this dog’s name was not Suds. It was Carlin. It had to be. Part for the play on words that I met him in a car wash. But mostly because he inspired me to re-appreciate the universe in an entirely non-religious way.
There is also something amazing about having a dog named Bea Arthur towering over a dog named George Carlin.
We let Bea explore while we fed Carlin and tried to get him to drink water and get some exercise. But even off leash, he wouldn’t walk. He ate a little bit – but he wouldn’t drink any water. We tried coaxing him by putting some of his food in the water bowl, but nothing. We tried getting him to walk towards the food, and he refused. He tried a few times, but his legs wouldn’t let him.
Something was seriously wrong. When we first picked him up, we attributed Carlin’s twitching to fear, his weakness to hunger, and his missing teeth to a life on the streets. It was becoming increasingly clear that Carlin was very sick – and a lifetime of running had only made it worse. He was so scared when we found him that even starving and with bad legs he still outran us. It was simultaneously impressive and sad.
But he wasn’t running from us now. He trusted us enough to just lay in the grass, alternating between eating and sleeping, two things he wasn’t able to do with any sense of certainty just an hour earlier.
We knew that we had to take him to a vet or a shelter. If this was New York or LA or a dozen other places, I’d have been able to find someone who could help. But we were a few miles north of Fresno – and after a few desperate unanswered posts to Reddit and Facebook, our only choice was to bring him in. I didn’t call Animal Control – they were the same people who couldn’t bother themselves with saving Carlin in the first place.
As we drove to the SPCA, we knew there was a good chance Carlin would be put down. We might have been saving his life – but the odds were we just gave him one nice afternoon after a lifetime of fear.
Two years ago, this story would have been impossible. I grew up terrified of dogs. I misinterpreted affection for aggression, and I let ignorance get the better of me. It wasn’t until I watched Sara volunteer with strays and we eventually adopted our own that I truly got it. Dogs are a human problem – we created them and we overbreed them. It is our responsibility to protect what we shaped. I love Sara for many reasons. But showing me that my fear was nothing compared to the fear of the four million dogs who go abandoned every year? For that, I will be eternally grateful.
Carlin cuddled into Sara’s lap and fell asleep as I drove. Bea’s whining stopped, and she silently laid down in the back seat. Her new little brother was sick, and she somehow knew it was not the time to be selfish.
The Fresno SPCA knew Carlin was in trouble immediately. It was obvious to them that Carlin had an incurable condition called distemper, a disease that proves fatal in most cases. Though completely avoidable with a simple vaccination, distemper is one of the worst diseases a dog can contract, and it causes tooth loss, trouble walking, and dehydration with no desire to drink. The worst part is that, while incurable, distemper is treatable if caught in time. Had Animal Control – or anyone else – bothered to catch a scared little dog, while a long shot, his disease may have been manageable.
The optimist in me wanted to pay the several thousand dollars for a distemper test to make sure. The realist in me accepted what was happening, and gave my little gremlin one last hug goodbye.
I placed the bag of supplies we’d bought on the counter of the SPCA, muttered “keep them,” and walked away. I wish the story ended differently. I wish I could show you pictures three weeks from now, where Sara and Bea and I are all playing with my new doofy little gremlin. But I can’t.
When I say today was the day that everything changed, I don’t mean for me. Yes, I am more resigned to help any stray I see, to donate money to rescues, and to use my stage to influence others. But today, things didn’t change for me – they changed for Carlin. His life of fear ended quietly in a hospital instead of in agony in a gas station parking lot. And it ended with three things he’d never had before – love, protection, and the dignity of a name.
Not every story has to have a happy ending. Some can just have a happy couple of hours.
Thank you, Steve, for writing this so beautifully, and to you, Sara, for sharing it with me.
UPDATE: Some good news from Sara…
Thanks for your kind words – it means a lot. Carlin was a very special dog. There is a silver lining of the story – after reading it our landlord has decided to relax her one dog policy and let us adopt another one. Carlin’s story is saving another life and his legacy will live on.
BarkWorld Expo is a friendly and supportive social media marketing conference for the pet industry and pet enthusiasts alike. While fresh, fun pet products were on display last October, plenty of people discussed how rescues, shelters and bloggers greatly benefit animal rescue and welfare every day.
I was honored with an invitation to speak, and my session, The Social Good: Marketing Strategies for Animal Welfare Advocates, aimed to bridge all parties by sharing my real-life experiences with global and local advocacy.
I began as a hobbyist pet blogger, like many of you, looking for ways to make my corner of the internet useful for animals in need. I’ve since experienced wonderful successes as co-founder of Be the Change for Animals, an international animal advocacy site, and Dog House Adoptions, a local rescue.
I am still a blogger who works to help organizations. And now my websites have become organizations that work with bloggers. I’ve learned through a ton of trial and a healthy share of error that, together, we can be a powerful and amplified means for persuasive, life-saving storytelling – once we learn where our pieces fit together.
And our animals’ stories don’t have to be limited by the boundaries of our own small towns. Local rescue efforts can often be funded by people around the globe… if your story packs up nicely and travels well. That’s the beauty of social media.
Below, you’ll find a video of my presentation, slides, notes, and a PDF of online resources. If you’re new to online advocacy work, or want to get involved as a blogger, these tips will get you started. If you’re a seasoned veteran, this material may offer fresh inspiration.
The Social Good: Marketing Strategies for Animal Welfare Advocatees
Spark connections with folks who can help, at home and even abroad.
Stock your toolbox with free resources to manage your campaign and increase its reach.
Download the PDF. Included is my session outline and 2 pages of helpful online resource links.
Note: Please pardon the faint sound, the fact that they put li’l ol’ me in this giant conference room where everybody sat at the back, and that I actually cried while talking about one of our awesome rescue dogs. Someday, I will get better at this.
For Prezi impaired devices, visit Slideshare for a copy.
Cheers to your success. I hope your animal cause gains gobs of support through social media!